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Objective - Accelerometer

43. Five-year changes in school recess and lunchtime

Research Article
Nicola D Ridgers et al
May 2011

Commentary by Rona Macniven, Cluster for Physical Activity and Health (CPAH), University of Sydney


Schools are an important setting for physical activity among young people, through physical education opportunities and break times. Little is known about the contribution of break times to children’s physical activity levels. This Melbourne study looks at longitudinal changes over five years in children's recess and lunchtime physical activity levels and in the contribution of these break times to daily physical activity levels among 5–6- and 10–12-year olds finding decreases in physical activity over time.


Accelerometers measured physical activity every 60 seconds for eight consecutive days at baseline (n=2,782), after three years (n=773) and five years (n=634) in young people in the Children Living in Active Neighbourhoods Study (CLAN) and the Health, Eating and Play Study (HEAPS). The children’s parents also completed a questionnaire on socio-demographic information.


Over the five year period, there were significant decreases in moderate and vigorous physical activity at both recess and lunchtime, particularly in the older cohort, coupled with increases in sedentary time over this time. A positive finding however was that the contribution of recess to daily moderate intensity physical activity significantly increased in the 5-6 year olds over time but decreased in the 11-12 year olds.


These findings provide important new information on children’s physical activity during break times at school and are evidence for advocating for programs that capitalize on this time period as an opportunity to increase physical activity levels of young people.